Monday, December 22, 2008


Mike DeBonis, aka Loose Lips, at Washington City Paper gives the latest facts and specs concerning the inauguration. Latest crowd is 2.5 million plus. . . Loose Lips: That's a steep drop from [Mayor] Fenty's early, fanciful estimates, Mary Beth Sheridan reports in WaPo. Which is good because, as Examiner reports, previous estimate of 4M "could overwhelm regional hospitals and jails, according to experts. And even 2 million, as more modest estimates project, would still prove problematic in case of an emergency.". . . And how bout this idea: "Officials could close the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to accommodate bus parking. That would require the closing of the Roosevelt and 14th Street bridges.". . . Dr. Gridlock has spoken: On Jan. 20, "because there will be a security cordon around downtown Washington, because use of some bridges will be restricted and because there may be limited access to some commuter corridors, transit still looks like the best bet for getting to work under these difficult circumstances." . . . Smithsonian Metro station will close completely. . . "Officials say backpacks, duffel bags, coolers, thermoses, umbrellas, lawn chairs and the all-important stroller must be left at home," says News Channel 8. . .

Sources tell us that the Obama administration plans to ban irony, so let us hasten to point out that the inauguration of the first black president will include discrimination against senior citizens and children:

DC Examiner - No strollers near the Capitol. No tents on the National Mall. None of that Silly String on the parade route. That's just a sample of the items forbidden from President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration for security reasons. And while many people say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness the swearing-in of the nation's first black president, others are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they will sit, snack, carry diapers or transport tired tots.

Some older people are backing out of their inaugural plans, partly because of a no-chair rule for the parade route. Parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-kid-friendly restrictions. Thermoses, coolers and backpacks are out at both the Capitol and the parade route. . .

The tightest rules are reserved for the lucky 240,000 ticket-holders, who get to sit closest to the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. There are understandable prohibitions on weapons and pepper spray. But you also can't carry an umbrella. And don't think about holding up any "Yes We Did" signs - posters also are not allowed.

It could get tricky as people congregate along the parade route, where many items allowed on the Mall will be off-limits. That list includes bicycles, backpacks, aerosols (which could include Silly String), coolers, thermal containers and chairs.

Signs or placards can be brought to the parade - but only if they're made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 3 feet by 20 feet. . .

The rules aren't so strict on the National Mall, where most people will end up because tickets aren't required. Officials have said everyone will be checked, but they haven't said what that will entail.

People won't be able to see much, except what's on Jumbotrons, but they can bring all sorts of stuff. Besides the obvious no-nos - firearms, explosives, fireworks - the only bans are on alcohol, tents and glass bottles.

DC Examiner - Health officials say hospitals in the Washington region are expecting to see up to 60,000 patients over the four-day inaugural festivities -- roughly double the number of patients they would normally treat. But that projection doesn't take into account a possible catastrophe or an unexpected outbreak.

"If the question is 'Is there a large amount of surge capability built in to hospitals?' The answer is no," said Dr. Eric Glasser, a physician at Georgetown University Hospital and president of the D.C. chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Can we make it work for a short period of time? Yes."

Emergency rooms close to the Capitol will take the surge in patients with life-threatening emergencies like heart attacks, premature births and appendicitis, but officials are still working out details of a plan to ensure mobility of ambulances, which will be hampered by large crowds and closed roads.

Even Baltimore hospitals "are expecting a surge of patients," Michael Schwartzberg, spokesman for the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said. Hospitals will be ready for everything from sprained ankles to the possibility of an outbreak of the norovirus. The nasty bug responsible for severe stomach and intestinal problems travels quickly in crowds and has recently shown up at big events in North Carolina and Minnesota.

Washington's already busy jails also will be under special stress. On a typical day, more than 1,900 of the 2,164 available spots in D.C. corrections facilities are filled. If even a small fraction of the Obama celebrants run afoul of the law, it could push jails beyond their limits.

This year a 12-hour racetrack event in Sebring, Fla., saw 68 arrests out of 170,000 people. In D.C., the crowds will likely be multiplied at least tenfold. And with bars and nightclubs open until 4 a.m. and protesters expected to descend on the city, officials are worried about handling the surge.

"The biggest mistake anyone is making is encouraging record-breaking crowds to come to Washington," said Paul Wertheimer, principal consultant at Los Angeles-based Crowd Management Strategies.

"They're pushing the envelope too much," he said. "They can't manage the kinds of crowds they are saying might occur."

In 1999, the Woodstock music festival had about 250,000 people, Wertheimer said, with 2,000 toilets and 2,800 police and unarmed guards. Inaugural planners announced that for potentially 2 million people along the National Mall, there will be about 5,000 toilets and 2,300 police and National Guardsmen.

"And people who think that happy crowds are problem-free crowds don't understand what dangers are and how they develop," Wertheimer said, explaining that most assassinations have occurred among happy crowds, and that happy crowds don't deter terrorists.


At December 22, 2008 4:04 PM, Anonymous Mairead said...

Mercy me. With all those restrictions, you'd think Obama fears "We the People".

At December 22, 2008 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the way some of those 'we the people' have reacted to Mrs. Palin's little speeches, he'd be pretty damned stupid if he didn't. If you genuinely think that a Black President is not at extremely high risk of getting his head blown off at his inauguration, or at just about any other time during his term in this really racially enlightened nation of ours, you're dumber than I thought.

At December 23, 2008 7:46 AM, Anonymous Mairead said...

The number of crazies is small and they're randomly distributed, so if they pose a threat here, they should pose the same threat anywhere.

Yet it's only in countries ruled by exploiters that the people at the top are guarded so carefully. In healthy countries, those in the top spots have no reason to fear the people because the people know they're not being screwed over.

At December 23, 2008 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how we're always reading rants here about the imminent threat these crazies pose (i.e., militia groups, and 'aryan-nation' style hate outfits), but now suddenly, they've become tiny, insignificant and isolated random nuts who could of course pose no real threat to any sane person.

If Barack Obama were the average man-in-the-street black, whose neighborhood or family or self were threatened by members of these extremist groups, you'd be the first one shouting from the rooftops about the danger these people pose.

But because Barack Obama is a pol whose politics you happen to dislike, it's now more convenient to shrug off the danger as nothing more than the delusional fears of some paranoid n*****, I suppose.

At December 25, 2008 8:34 AM, Anonymous Mairead said...

I merely note the reality that it's only in banana republics and similar that we see this kind of protection being mounted. If this were Denmark, Cloggieland, etc., the newly-anointed Prez/PM could walk to his/her investiture, shaking hands along the way.

Do those countries not have "militia groups" and "aryan nation style hate outfits"?

Sure they do, but the cops can keep them under observation because the cops aren't watching everyone else. In healthy countries, the cops are people, not a self-defined elite with the occupying-army mentality that US cops have.

The amount of protection required by our rulers is a very good finger-in-the-wind metric for how bad things are around here.

At December 25, 2008 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To confabulate about what 'other countries' may or may not do with their high-risk extremist groups is to sidestep the core issue of what goes on in this country, the one we happen to be living in. And the unalterable fact remains that there are plenty of those nuts out there, both organized and lone, and they are indeed an appreciable threat to be reckoned with. And your rationales also don't alter the fact that many in the ranks of Mr. and Mrs Middle America are still most peculiarly subject to the kind of racist hate-mongering and coded rhetoric that scum such as Sarah Palin were not afraid to engage in--pretty damned blatantly--in the course of this campaign. Which would tend to suggest that it isn't simply a fringe group of crazies who are uniquely susceptible to the poison of racism, but that the illness is systemic throughout the body of the nation entire.

If one accepts that this is more likely the case, than can one seriously repudiate the idea that a Black man, now elevated to the highest office in the land, does not stand in a uniquely dangerous position with respect to the likelihood of his being sacrificed to the tyranny of the hold racism still holds over many (probably most) Americans?

To avoid answering this, and to natter on about the sociology and social setups of other countries, or to lay it simply at the feet of the (admittedly abysmal) mentality of the US cop system, is to miss by a wide mark the much larger and vastly more unsettling realization of the mindset of much of the American population at large, Mairead.


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